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Exit Pak Lah April 2, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Malaysia, World politics , add a comment

badawianwarIt’s been in the works for quite some time, but Malaysia’s unpopular prime minister Abdullah Badawi (nicknamed Pak Lah – “uncle Abdullah”) finally handed in his resignation to the Malaysian king yesterday. He will be succeeded by his deputy prime minister and successor as UMNO party president, Najib Tun Razak.

After UMNO has been losing ground over the last few years, in 2008 in particular, the challenges for Najib will be great. While Malaysia is being hit harder and harder by the international financial crisis, Najib will have to reform and revitalize his party, the Barisan Nasional coalition and the government of Malaysia itself if he is to have any hope of holding the opposition coalition under the leadership of Anwar Ibrahim at bay.

On taking office, the heredtary nobleman Najib is already shrouded in suspicions of corruption and scandal – none of which have been yet to stick in court, but are accepted by large parts of the population. His work is certainly cut out for him. (more…)

No change for Malaysia? January 27, 2009

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badawianwarThere is a mood of anticipation over the world as Barack H. Obama (as I now understand we should call him) has taken his seat in the Oval Office. This mood of anticipation and great expectation of change is not unlike what had the opposition movement in Malaysia whipped up last year when Anwar Ibrahim made his comeback into Malaysian politics. But did change never come?

September 16 2008, the opposition movement’s new national day, was announced to be the day the roots of the Malaysian establishment would shake and mass defections from the government coalition would be announced. The blogging community and opposition coalition leaks had the tally at more than 30 MPs ready to jump sides, and the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition ready to sweep in and take power. But the day came and went with out much of the announced ruckus. Certainly no mass defections. (more…)

10-minute guide to Malaysian Politics: A foreigner’s view October 7, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : Malaysia, World politics , 4comments

Malaysian politics are fascinating, but as with any country not easy to understand unless you’ve studied them. I’ve had a keen interest in Malaysia for a few years, so I’ll try to sum up the most important things you need to know to follow what’s going on. This reflects my understanding of things, which I admit may be flawed. Please comment on any mistakes you believe I have made. Also a word of caution: Wikipedia articles on these subjects have occasionally been contaminated by “jokes” or partisan statements and should be used with caution. (more…)

Yes, Tun Mahathir – we can fault the BN concept and governance September 21, 2008

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In this post on his blog chedet.com, former Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Mahathir Mohamad, of whom I have previously written quite a bit asserts his claims that the recent election losses by the Barisan Nasional coalition have been caused by loss of confidence in the BN leadership rather than because of genuine support for the opposition.

His analysis is for the most part sound. It makes sense that people would vote for a genuine opponent rather than a utopian third party candidate if what they wanted was to punish the BN. I believe he is right that at least a good portion of the opposition votes were the result of BN disillusionment. I do however think he underestimates the genuine support in Malaysia for reform, and most importantly I think he is mistaken with regard to his final point:

14. We cannot fault the BN concept and governance. We have to look elsewhere for the loss of confidence in the party.

For reasons I have discussed at much more length earlier, there are several things that make me believe that the very UMNO (and BN) system is unsustainable in the long run: (more…)

10 year anniversary celebrated with new sodomy charges – Badawi learning from his master? August 7, 2008

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Today, BBC reported that Malaysia’s former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim was once again charged with sodomy (gay sex), a very serious offense in Malaysia.

It’s been 10 years since the great power struggle between Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim, then Prime Minister and deputy in Malaysia. In 1998 it ended with Anwar being accused of sodomy, arrested, expelled from the party and the parliament. He was cleared of those charges by the court, but convicted for corruption after trying to pressure the police to drop the investigation. I live in Malaysia at the time, and like everyone else around me, didn’t believe much in the charges. At least the part about sodomy.

Anwar was released from prison in 2004, and earlier this year had his ban from political activity lifted. Then he went on to lead his party to their best election ever, for the first time breaking the 2/3 majority of the Barisan Nasional coalition that has ruled Malaysia since the country’s independence from Great Britain.

Mahathir Mohamad resigned after 22 years as Malaysia’s Prime minister in 2003, at age 78, and finally handed the reins over to his successor, Mohammad Badawi. Although few expected drastic changes in Malaysia, there was at least a hope that Badawi might gradually move Malaysia in a less authoritarian direction.

In this previous post I presented a paper I wrote on the struggle between Mahathir and Anwar and how the interplay between domestic politics and international economy forced Mahathir to desperate action. Is what we’re seing now, 10 years after the events described there, a case of history repeating itself in a slightly less dramatic way? Is this Badawi’s counter-move to the serious threat posed by an Anwar that once again has the winds of politics in his sails? (more…)